Thursday, March 23, 2017


One area of JFNA's work has exemplified what the rest of the organization should (and could) be -- JFNA-Washington. On March 21, that Office issued a fact-driven statement on the potential disaster of the Trump Budget proposal on the safety net woven by our communities and our agencies. The Statement is so important it is published here in full:

TO: JFNA Domestic Policy and Government Affairs Committee, Federation Executive Directors, State Government and CRC Directors, Planners, and other interested parties
FROM: William C. Daroff, Senior Vice President for Public Policy & Director Washington Office Stephan O. Kline, Associate Vice President for Public Policy
DATE: March 20, 2017
RE: Administration Budget for FY 2018 and Action Steps

President Trump submitted his America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again to Congress on March 16, 2017. Referred to by the Administration as a “skinny” budget with more detail to be released later this spring, this proposal for FY 2018 provides information only on discretionary spending funded through the appropriations process. Unlike the budget proposals submitted by every Administration since the modern Congressional budget process was created in 1974, this budget includes few specific details that shed light on how specific programs would be affected if the Administration’s proposal were enacted.

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While the budget is lean on details and we do not know the exact impact of its proposed cuts, we do know that if enacted this budget would have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable in our communities who receive publicly-funded services provided by Jewish federation partner agencies. Whether the clients are older adults, people with disabilities, immigrants or refugees, pregnant women, victims of domestic violence, or adults seeking to adopt a child, if this budget is adopted and those clients receive publicly-funded services at Jewish nursing homes, Jewish FamilyServices, JVS, Jewish Community Centers, kosher food pantries, domestic violence shelters, group homes, assisted living centers or hospitals, those services will be significantly diminished.
The concerns expressed in this memo relating to the Administration’s proposal are in addition to the significant potential risks to Medicaid funding that are included in the American Health Care Reform Act (AHCA). AHCA is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. If enacted, the cuts to Medicaid included in AHCA would seriously undermine Jewish agencies funded through Medicaid. This memorandum, however, focuses on federal discretionary spending. Unfortunately, this budget submission contains virtually no supplemental tables and none of the appendices that typically provide explanatory information. For the most part, what is revealed are top line numbers and statements that summarize the Administration’s position, such as: “To keep Americans safe, we have made tough choices that have been put off for too long...The defense and public safety spending increases in this Budget Blueprint are offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the Federal Government.”
Based on this document, the Administration intends to stick with the budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which have already decreased the non-defense discretionary budget by more than $150 billion. Accordingly, the President would add $54 billion to the defense side of the ledger (increasing defense from $549 billion to $603 billion) while simultaneously reducing that amount from non-defense spending (from $516 billion to $462 billion).Under this Budget Blueprint, every agency and department is cut other than the Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Departments.

Based on the limited detail provided, we do not knowexactly how most specific programs would fare, but the budget submission notes that “consistent withthe President’s approach to move the Nation towards fiscal responsibility, the Budget eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs.”
Here are the overall cuts that would be applied to the departments that provide significant funding to Jewish human service agencies.

Agriculture ($4.7 billion reduction or 20.7%). The Department of Agriculture funds congregate meal programs for seniors, school lunch programs for poor students, and food commodity programs utilized by kosher food pantries.
Health and Human Services ($12.6 billion reduction or 16.2%). HHS funds a multitude of programs utilized by all publicly-funded Jewish human service agencies covering everything from adoption and child care to senior services and hospice at the end of life. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Community Services Block Grant would both be eliminated.
Housing and Urban Development ($6.2 billion reduction or 13.2%). HUD funds Section 202 independent living for seniors and Section 811 group homes for persons with disabilities. The $3 billion Community Development Block Grant, which is a very flexible funding stream paying for a wide variety of human services including Meals on Wheels, would be eliminated.
Justice ($1.1 billion reduction or 3.8%). DOJ funds domestic violence programs through the Violence Against Women’s Act and recreational programs for troubled teens.
Labor ($2.5 billion reduction or 20.7%). The Department of Labor funds workforce development for people with disabilities. The Senior Community Service Employment Program would be eliminated.

State ($10.9 billion reduction or 28.7%). While the State Department budget would sharply reduce most foreign aid and eliminate a number of offices including the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, the budget would provide $3.1 billion “to meet the security assistance commitment to Israel, currently at an all-time high; ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats and maintain its Quality Military Edge.”
Transportation ($2.4 billion reduction or 12.7%) DOT funds transportation programs for seniors and persons with disabilities).

In addition to the major cuts in departmental budgets, 16 independent agencies including the Corporation for National and Community Services which funds AmeriCorps VISTAs supporting Holocaust Survivor programs and SeniorCorps would be eliminated. While the Department of Homeland Security budget would be increased by $2.8 billion or 6.8%, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would see its grant funding reduced by $667 million and this likely would significantly affect the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
In most cases, we do not know which specific programs will be cut within the departments listed above. We are not suggesting that all will be cut in part or totally, but that is possible. If $54 billion is cut from non-defense discretionary appropriations next year, there is no ambiguity: dollars flowing to Jewish agencies will be reduced significantly. Accordingly, we urge you to raise the following
points with your Senators and Representatives:
  1. 1)  End sequestration! These are the automatic spending caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act. This process was never intended to go into effect and it has already reduced discretionary spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.
  2. 2)  If sequestration continues, maintain relative parity between the defense and non-defense components of the appropriation bills.
3) Don’t cut valuable social service programs that protect the most vulnerable in our
communities. Discuss programs that are utilized by your partner agencies and are at particular risk of cuts like the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, congregate food and Meals on Wheels within the Older Americans Act, and the HUD Section 202 (senior) and 811 (people with disabilities) housing programs.

We will share more information about the federal budget process as we learn it. When you and others in
your community speak to members of Congress, please let us know their reactions. If you have questions, feel free to contact Stephan Kline, Associate Vice President, at

Friends, this factual presentation about the devastation that will befall those of our People most in need in the United States is not a political document, it is not about liberals and conservatives, it is a cry of pain about a Budget proposal that will cripple every social service agency -- be they Jewish, Catholic, Protestant or secular across the country.

We cannot be silent. 

Great thanks to JFNA-Washington for its advocacy.


ADDENDUM: JFNA-Washington added to its statement above with a strong letter from William Daroff to Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi on the implications of the then proposed
Health Care Act. 

1 comment:

Bob Hyfler said...

The statement meets basic criteria for when Federations should speak:

1. The issue is of existential import to the system and those we serve

2. There is clearly a consensus within our communities on the positions taken

3. It can make a difference and people in positions of power are likely to take notice

Kol hakavod!